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Do you need a growth mindset when creating learning environments?

July 4, 2018

As educators, we all know how easy it is to fall into a pattern of how we do and think about things... our comfort zone. This comfort zone affects how we approach new ideas and it dictates our mindset. What is your mindset? Do you believe that your abilities and talents are fixed entities that can't be changed? Or do you believe that you can develop your abilities and talents through hard work and effort? Carol Dweck (2006) has identified these two mindsets as fixed and growth. Earlier this year I read and learned more about Dweck's growth mindset and thought that I had a growth mindset, but now having researched and composed my own disruptive innovation plan and put my learning philosophy into words, I KNOW that I have a growth mindset.  


Creating a significant learning environment that encourages

 learners to develop a growth mindset can be done successfully through the maker movement. My learners come to me in the form of educators and students.  My job is to assist my teachers to become more innovative in their classrooms and to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. By designing and implementing makerspaces, I can guide educators and encourage students. I am not just sitting educators down and "training" them on how to be more innovative, I am modeling it, in real life, with their own students. One of the biggest setbacks I personally see in my educators that hinders their growth mindset is that they don't think their students can handle the freedom to create and explore. They will break or destroy "expensive technology" or won't take their learning seriously. Instead of just saying that isn't right, I showed them by assigning a time for each teacher to bring their class to the makerspace. Through this time, every teacher got the opportunity to witness their students successfully 3D printing, exploring the world through VR, coding robots and building. They experienced first hand that when we do give students the freedom to choose how they learn is when students take their learning seriously - because their learning in their hands, giving them control.


One reason that the maker movement is so powerful and helps

 learners develop a growth mindset is because it provides them opportunities to fail in a safe environment. Makerspaces are meant for exploration, encourages learners to learn from one another and instills the mindset that failure is acceptable. Dweck (2006) talks about the power of "yet" and that it isn't that you failed, it's that you haven't gotten it yet. A makerspace exudes this message because students are encouraged to bring their creations to life and to work together to find creative solutions to problems. The maker movement is more than just toys and playing, it is a culture and a mindset, it is the attitude that we can overcome any obstacle. The growth mindset isn't just a newest on trend educational term, it is the mindset our students needs for the futures they are going to create and the jobs that we can't even imagine. 


The past few weeks I have been able to really focus on the maker movement and my disruptive innovation plan to spread this movement

 from just my school to all the schools. I dove into what it takes to create a significant learning environment that is student-centered and how it relates to the maker movement. I discovered  how it is vital to have this environment first to encourage students to take risks and ownership over their own learning.

I also reflected on my own personal learning philosophy and how my recent passion for the maker movement has shifted it. I was able to put into words my own core beliefs of my learning philosophy and gained insight on the theorists whose work and philosophies the maker movement is built on.


Knowing how I believe learning occurs allowed me to begin to design my disruptive innovation course for my fellow co-workers to attend to gain the skills and mindset to go back to their own campuses and implement a

 makerspace of their own. I completed two different planning models: Fink’s Three Column Table and Understand by Design (UbD). I started with my BHAG, big hairy audacious goal, and designed my own 3 column table based off Fink's (2003) guide. Fink describes a new vision of "what teaching and learning should be, based on 3 major ideas: significant learning, integrated course design, and better organizational support" (Fink, 2003, pg. 14) and I creating my own table helped outline the goals I need to accomplish to meet my BHAG. This "big picture" helped me when using Wiggin's and McTighe's (2005) Understanding by Design template to dig deeper into what exactly each day of my 4 day course would look like. Educators would benefit from using these models to develop a course, unit, or lesson because it starts with the goals first works backwards. 


Creating a learning environment that encourages play and embodies your personal learning philosophies is where I would encourage novice educators to begin and veteran educators to go back and revisit. Fostering and developing our growth mindsets should be something we are all constantly working and reflecting on. 




Dweck, Carol. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.


Fink, L.D. (2003) A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Pearson. ISBN 0131950843



















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